Any fan of the game industry is aware of the ‘console wars’ that have pretty much always been going on between hardware developers since gaming hardware has been available. Of course, no real wars are occurring, but imagine if the concept was taken literally. Compile Heart certainly liked the idea when it made the Hypderdimension Neptunia series about ten years ago, and now the tenth instalment of the franchise, Megadimension Neptunia VII, has made its way over to the Switch. As you can probably guess just by appearances, Megadimension Neptunia VII is certainly an acquired taste that will only appeal to a specific audience. And, to be fair, it’s not a great RPG, but it has enough redeeming qualities to be at least worth a look for some enthusiasts.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Hyperdimension franchise, the premise is essentially an extended allegorical take on the never-ending push and pull of the real-world game industry, one in which beloved game consoles and companies are represented as characters by cutesy anime girls with mostly high-pitched voices. In Megadimension Neptunia VII, the narrative mostly takes place in the “Zero Dimension” which is very clearly based upon the Dreamcast. Here, a new CPU named Uzume is the last standing warrior left to battle a mysterious Dark CPU who’s hellbent on destroying all life, and it’s up to Neptune and her sister, Nepgear, to offer their support and help Uzume free her home.
The three-part narrative is fascinating in its own right, especially with all the sidelong references to the Dreamcast and general gaming culture instilling the narrative with a passive sort of novelty, but this quickly wears thin as you get knee-deep in the story proper. To be frank, the storyline is padded, shallow, and seems to be more focused on setting up lewd scenarios with its mostly female cast than on telling a well-spun yarn. For example, one early scene (which goes on for a painfully long time) sees one of the main protagonists deciding to take a shower and – through relentless flirting and mocking – eventually convinces not one, but two of the other protagonists to take off their clothes and join her in the shower. Suffice to say, you might want to play this one when there’s no risk of your parents or friends walking into the living room, as Megadimension Neptunia VII treats its fan service with all the subtlety of a hand grenade.
Gameplay follows that of a typical JRPG; most of your experience will consist of running through dungeons that are loaded with monsters and loot, slowly but surely acquiring the resources and experience to push onward. Combat is turn-based but features a nice extra wrinkle in which character positioning is just as important as the actions that they use. Each attack or skill has an area of effect and, depending on the move, you can sometimes hit multiple targets in one shot. If you’re savvy in how you aim certain attacks, you can even wipe out enemies before their turn is up, granting your characters more chances to dole out punishment.
On top of this, Megadimension Neptunia VII gives you a lot of options on how to approach combat. For example, a simple combo system for basic attacks grants you a decent amount of control over how quickly your characters can dispatch enemies. Depending on the order and type of strike you use, some attacks can have additional damage and compounding effects based on what was used earlier in the combo, which gives even the simplest attack option some nice depth. On top of this, filling up the EXE gauge through normal attacks then gives you the option of pulling off some cool multi-girl super moves or of temporarily changing characters into powered up forms. All of this comes together to make for a nicely detailed combat system with plenty of ways to play. You’re never overwhelmed with options in battle, but there are enough variables at play that even basic fodder enemy encounters are more thrilling than you’d expect.
The combat system is excellent, then, but problems arise with how much Megadimension Neptunia VII likes to pad out its runtime. Bosses get recycled ad infinitum, and both enemy and dungeon designs get reused in later acts, which lends the whole experience a sort of cheap and unimaginative feel. If one were to cut out even half of the silly dialogue and scrap a few of the reused dungeon themes, this forty-ish hour RPG could probably be around twenty hours long without really losing anything meaningful. Some may not be bothered by the repetition, but there simply comes a point where it feels like Megadimension Neptunia VII becomes needlessly elongated.
That being said, if you’re prepared to see it through to the end, Megadimension Neptunia VII offers up a decent selection of features for offering you more agency in party composition. For example, you can couple characters together to have them share stats and gain other in-battle benefits as their Lily Rank (basically a relationship level) goes up. On top of this, there’s a whole litany of in-game achievements that offer small stat boosts to characters as you unlock them, giving you the incentive to play the game a little different than you perhaps might in an ordinary run. Such features don’t negate the repetition of the repetitive game design present in other areas of Megadimension Neptunia VII, but make no mistake, they certainly do make it more bearable.
From a presentation perspective, Megadimension Neptunia VII mostly underdelivers, with ho-hum visuals and poor performance making for a generally inconsistent experience. Character designs are nicely drawn, but the dungeons you run through are laden with muddy textures and simple geometry that fails to impress in any meaningful way. On top of this, whether docked or handheld, Megadimension Neptunia VII is usually hovering around 20FPS, which gives the lacking visuals a choppy look.
Should you buy Megadimension Neptunia VII? Well, that depends on a few major factors. Can you stomach shamelessly pervy leerings at the bodies of the many females featured in the story? Are you okay with playing a poorly-optimized game that’s not very graphically impressive to begin with? If yes, then you just may be surprised at the quality of the gameplay that lies at the heart of this RPG. Despite its shortcomings, Megadimension Neptunia VII can be a fun game to play, and though there are plenty of better RPG’s to pick up on the eShop today, it’s impossible to deny the niche value being offered here. We’d lightly recommend this one, but with the important caveat that this is the kind of game that’s ideal fodder for buying on a big sale in the future.